The first in the electrifying new Forbidden Iceland series, The Creak on the Stairs is an exquisitely written, claustrophobic and chillingly atmospheric debut thriller by one of Iceland’s most exciting new talents.
When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area. Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day…
But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it ’s too late.
The Creak on the Stairs is translated by Victoria Cribb.
What can I say. This is just brilliant. I read it over three days while visiting my son – mostly while travelling to and from (no I wasn’t driving) and at bedtime. Everything about it is exciting, chilling, scary, I could go on with a list of adjectives. It’s the perfect police procedural but there is also so much more.
I did guess the killer after one tiny hint about two thirds of the way through but I also kept changing my mind about the other people involved right up till the end. I’m still not sure. Elma is a great protagonist with an excellent team in Sævar and Hörður and I look forward to hearing more from them in follow up books in the series.
But back to the story. Elma has returned to her childhood home in Akranes after her relationship of nine years has ended. She was a police officer in Reykjavík but it’s only at the very end that we discover what actually happened and why she needed to return. She joins the police force in sleepy, parochial Akranes just at the time the body of a woman is found near the lighthouse and it doesn’t take long to discover who the victim was. It seems that everyone knew her – Elisabet – when she was a child, living with her alcoholic mother in dreadful conditions, with also sorts of shady people visiting the house. Elma also suspects that Elisabet may have been abused.
This is a book about secrets and lies, and not just those of the dead woman, but also of others whose childhood memories are best kept buried. When Elisabet’s body is found, everyone else’s own terrible truths begin to come out. So who is lying or hiding something and why? This is a complicated tale of jealousy, power and abuse. Some people in the town are too important to investigate and while her boss Hörður is trying not to rock the boat, Elma ploughs on regardless, determined to get to the truth, even if it means interviewing the most powerful man in Akranes and his family.
The Creak on the Stairs also gives us an insight into Iceland’s character, its history and the cold, often bleak weather, which create the backdrop for this thrilling story. I loved it.
I have only one tiny reservation – because all the names are Icelandic, it took me a while to sort out who was who as the names were hard to remember. Once I did though, it was all good.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours
About the Author
Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.
Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.
Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.